We've tendered an Offer Sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi pic.twitter.com/4Mmw3n4DVr
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) August 28, 2021
The one-year contract is worth $6.1 million and includes a $20 signing bonus, the Hurricanes said in a statement.
Kotkaniemi has signed the contract with the Hurricanes but the Canadiens have seven days to match. If the Canadiens decline to match, the Hurricanes will send their first-round pick and third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft back to Montreal.
“Jesperi Kotkaniemi accepted our offer. He wants to come to Carolina,” said Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell in a statement. “He sees the core we’ve built here and he wants to be a part of that. We’re proud, but there’s still a waiting period. When you make an offer like that, we saw a vulnerable position. The offer, with the compensation and the core we have, we realized that it was the best chance we had to get the player.”
The move comes two years after the Canadiens signed Hurricanes star Sebastian Aho to a five-year, $42,295,000 offer sheet which the Hurricanes ultimately matched.
Kotkaniemi, who was a restricted free agent after his three-year, entry-level pact had expired, is coming off a season in which he posted five goals and 20 points in 56 games. He added five goals and nine points in 19 playoff games to help the Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Due to his level of NHL experience and age, Kotkaniemi will be a restricted free agent after this contract expires. As a result, the Hurricanes or Canadiens would then have to offer him a qualifying offer worth $6.1 million if a contract extension is not negotiated by July 1, 2022.
If Kotkaniemi departs, the Canadiens’ centre depth would take a significant hit. With Philip Danault already departed for Los Angeles in free agency, the team would have Nick Suzuki and Jake Evans potentially anchoring its top-two lines down the middle and would almost certainly need to add to that position before the season opens.
For the Hurricanes, this move could potentially add a promising young forward to a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Kotkaniemi would be free to play some sheltered minutes behind Aho, Vincent Trochek and Jordan Staal, and could see some power play time on the second unit.